Weeks gone by..

Last few weeks have been a new high of national stupidity in the name of nationalism. The anger it generated in me is that typical brand of futile rage that consumes me and then leaves an empty feeling in its wake along with added cynicism. All it did was leading to a lot of angry debates with friends and as usual a realisation that a person is actually quite lonely when some beliefs are at stake. Husband and I agreed not to engage in these discussions with certain people- but always lost out to temptation when utterly stupid statements were made with perfect arrogance and ignorance. Anyway. Since my anger or my beliefs are wishy washy to begin with, there is no real reason for complaint as such. My university JNU thankfully has more committed and strong people who keep on fighting without any of this self-cynical-pity that I have. And I am sure it will come out flying high in the face of these dumbfucks.

I spent a week in London. It was cold, miserable. It is a testament of how much like dog I have become – happy in my territory – that I didn’t stay for a single additional evening than my official itinerary there. I like my colleagues and I like English beer! However, must say that my favourite time in the great metropolis was the one evening I had free- spent in hotel room, blissfully eating take-away, sipping Guinness and reading Harry Potter. And wishing all the evenings were like that! Add boring to anti-social. That is me now. A dear friend had this quote framed on her work-table ‘ World Is like a Book and if you haven’t travelled- you have read only one page’. I am content to have read only one word in that case. I am so over travel and new experiences- that very soon I am going to turn into a German Shepherd. Except the physical beauty and strength.

Advertisements

Out of Box

‘I quit my 9 to 5 job to travel.’

Given our vast young, urban population, it is reasonable that there would be few people who would be doing such things. I know one such person myself.

But the way these stories are told in media, is typical of our dishonest collective desire to appear urban cool. Nobody writes about how much money these people had saved, or whether they had family support. It is always people in cool professions- who have had enough of their corporate life and quit one fine day to travel. Or sometimes write. Or volunteer.

How, pray, they pay their Bangalore or Bombay rents? Or put petrol in their expensive bikes?

Writing about it is not cool enough for our papers. Yesterday an article I read, said that the young woman who quit her job to travel, is funding herself through blogging!! Now that is, knowing a bit about digital media, hard for me to believe.

I am not, mind you, criticising people who have quit their jobs to travel. It takes guts to do that and a readiness to throw your future in somewhat uncertainty – in a country where there are hundreds of candidates willing to take your job at one tenth of salary. Kudos to anyone who decides to take that jump.

But what the story writers always hide , is the fact that these activities are almost always done by people who have safety nets. Parental support 9 out of 10 times. A privileged position and network in powerful society which allows them a possibility to return to their jobs once they want to ( because just take it from me no-one can afford even a room in Bombay on their own with their writing in the biggest of travel journals alone).

Having this doesn’t make their choices any less awesome. Not at all.

But subtly, not writing about the privilege inherent in these choices, we are making ‘out of the box’ choices a classless thing. Since these choices are aspirational for vast majority who don’t have these choices- by not pointing out the very economic basis for ‘out of box’ choices- we make the majority ‘uncool in the box people’. It makes the very basic struggles of modern life as something ‘crass’ and ‘ conformist’ – when it appears that it is only your inner voice which can dictate your choices. If you continue with 9 to 5, you are not brave enough, cool enough, modern enough.

It is like how film people still talk about sleeping on the footpaths when they were strugglers and hide the fact that they in fact went to India’s top rated boarding schools and have at least five relations in the film industry. ( Let us not even talk about star kids who insist that they had to struggle just as much as any outsider- and that their success is down to their talent alone and not dear producer papa.)

Recently at a prestigious literary event, I disappointed a few Goodearth wearing, out-of-box people in expensive haircuts, by going in details about how I quit my job only once I had paid off my loans and got my ESOPS. They were longing for a story of a spontaneous inspiration and a writing bug. I could see from their reactions. I finally gave in to a kind man who kept on insisting about my inner voice and how it had NOTHING to do with money and all that. As I looked at his Timberland shoes, I couldn’t help but nod in conformity.

Karmanye Vaadhikaraste.. maa faleshu kadachanam..

Every year, every hour, even every nano second brings change. Some changes are profound. Some are incidental. Some shake you out violently while some slowly drip in your future and you realize quite later the change that happened oh so slowly that you didn’t realize while you were going through it.

I THINK ( read : HOPE) I have finally, truly accepted that things , well, they tend to change . And unlike earlier times when I spouted Zen-ness everywhere but in my own life, 2015 has been actually Zenified. And this has happened gradually and without me actually planning it. So much for the will and self motivation and all that.

Life is full of accidents. Good and bad. Small and big.

But to accept it without grudge, truly in your heart/head and for it to be a continuous organic process- is something which doesn’t come out of ‘knowing’ alone.

IT happens. Like shit happens, IT also happens.

It has been more than 12 months that I have, more or less been largely accepting . Of the fact that things will change. That most of them are outside of my control.

Even when there were some pretty unique experiences which changed my perspective. Even when after there have been significant changes in my work profile. Even when husband went through a rough professional patch of his own.

So far – It is more or less calm acceptance.

For example. Recently when there were regular redundancies at work and half of the people I knew were laid off, the very fact that I wasn’t bothered for my security just brought home the point as to how seriously accepting I have become.

This job had literally fallen out of nowhere exactly a year ago. Just when I had prepared myself to branch into something else- out of my long frustration with corporate life- a honcho who knew me ten years ago called and made this fabulous work-from-home happen with the same role and money that I would have made had I stuck around in the asshole ridden place I worked for. Even when there were a couple of weeks of uncertainty about whether I will get this job or not- husband got a bit edgy- but- pat on the back- I was epitome of cool. I really didn’t worry whether I would get this or not.

When I did, I worked my ass off. But I could have easily been redundant- especially with the new structure across our corporate behemoth. I know it is my work, which without false modesty has been best of the lot. But it would be stupid to assume that it was other people’s work which made them lose their jobs.

It does take experience to bring home the humbleness that it is chance, quite often blind and almost always out of your control which changes your life.

And maybe it is time, it is experiences, it is slow knowledge that life beats you into- but I have stopped bothering about changes, especially the ones which are not in your control.

And an organic apathy is developed to what the changes mean for me.

Of course it means further changes just might be around the corner. It could be me sending the ‘It has been great working with you bleh bleh’ email a few months down the line, who knows.

But can I do something? In this case, nope. So I am content to work hard- something which I have accepted is in my blood. Accept that I do have a year more at least, or it could be a few more months of this wonderful earn a lot while you spend your working day in shorts thingie. It is quite possible that some high level strategic plan might upset this utopia. Who knows. Who cares. Not me.

What it means is that for the new few months at least I can work in conditions which I love. And that is more than enough.

Karmanye Vadhikaraste and all that.

Goa it is

So after months of disappearing from blogosphere- and receiving thousands of emails urging me to be back.. ok, a few dozen mails to be honest- ahem, I am back.

To self promote.

I will be speaking in Goa Arts and Literature Festival this Saturday , Dec.12th. Super proud of self I am !! I suspect I will be the sole writer of genre fiction there- so I am quite looking forward to my minority low-brow representation there.

It has been some seriously busy time all these months. It has been the first time I have worked from home and oh boy how I imagined those afternoon naps and relaxed atmosphere- which couldn’t be far from truth. I actually ended up working almost 50% more than I would have had I been working from office. Considering the fact that I do have to work for both UK and India markets- it is a boon though. Working in office at 11 pm is something that sounded cool when I was 25 and it was loooong time ago..

Screwed up my already non existing social life but ah well. I am not complaining about the fact that I can wear shorts while engaging on a high level commercial call and cuddle with the dog after lunch on the sofa.

I would be lying if I said I missed blogging all the time, but for a few weeks I do feel the need to vomit the highly important thoughts on the internets… so… those few dozen people… sweethearts that you are… rest assured I will be back more regularly to be one of the gazillion bloggers spouting world-class thoughts..

Work – Family Balance

If you are a woman, it doesn’t matter what you do for a living. You could be a commissioner of police or a CEO of a Billion Dollar corporate a la Indra Nooyi. There is only one question the humanity has for you.

How do you manage your family with high pressure job?

Needless to say, a man in power is never asked the same question, because it is assumed, and correctly so, that there would be a supportive woman who would take care of his family. Sorry, ‘her’ family. Because while the family might carry a man’s name, it is the responsibility of a woman to look after it and take a step back when it comes to her career/ individual growth.

What is surprising is that many people would like to believe that in todays ‘post-feminist’ world, (a.k.a where equality is totally achieved and we don’t need feminism ya all), it is a ‘choice’ that women make.

Right.

It is hardly a choice when opted for by overwhelming majority of one gender. It is hardly a choice when that same gender has been conditioned for centuries to focus on her role as a mother/ wife/ nurturer. And when the same conditioning continues even today in mainstream cultural dialogue.

Choice requires multiple options. Economic, structural, social, cultural, medical.. the list goes on. And in our society, majority of women just don’t have them.

Even women who have some structural advantages, find it difficult to act on them due to cultural pressure to be the primary nurturer and Gajar Ka Halwa maker of the family.

If you state this fairly obvious fact, you would be bombarded with angry responses, even from women. About how ‘it is her choice’ to stay home and look after her kids. Or that they happen to ‘ like’ to be there when their kids grow. Or that they are against the crass materialism and inhuman work-pressure. Or that their husbands just happen to earn more than they do and it makes sense for them to quit the job rather than their husbands. And how dare you challenge their legitimate ‘choice’?

Majority of these responses refuse to take into account the overwhelming cultural conditioning, economic factors and inherent sexism in our notions of parenting.

While feminism is about wide range of choices for women, no individual choice can exist in vacuum.

The decision to stay at home with kids or reject the pressure to be ‘powerful’ would be actually be a true choice when a significant number of men also ‘have’ to take that option, thus rendering it gender-neutral. It would be a true choice when women and men have similar options and similar parenting roles. It would be a true choice when there are no ‘mommy-tracks’ or gender wage gap. It would be a true choice when women choosing not to have kids are not looked down upon as aliens. It would be a true choice when rather than phony lip-service, mothers are actually compensated for the tremendous work they do by birthing the child.

Until then, whether we like to admit it or not, it is hardly a ‘choice’ women make in a ‘blissful post-patriachal vacuum.’

So this comes as a fresh breath when a powerful man decides to make the ‘choice’ to stay home to spend more quality time with his kids and blogs about the unfair expectation of women to worry about ‘family-work’ balance, while men never get asked about the same. Powerful men making this choice and recognising that this choice doesn’t exist in ideological vacuum, gives it legitimacy in our world full of dated notions of masculine identity and power.

It also reemphasises that kids have ‘parents’ and not just ‘mothers’.

It acknowledges that fathers also care about their kids and can sacrifice their careers for their kids.

Millions of women have to take this option every day. We definitely need more dads making this choice and being aware of the gendering of this concept. It would not only ease the pressure on women but also bring a healthier and balanced notions of parenting in our society.

Definitely not Zen..

All my Zen-ness has disappeared today.

Same old enemies. Perfectionism. Worrying about worst possible scenarios. Stressing about things rather than getting to do them.

In general a weighty feeling of thorough dissatisfaction coursing through my body. Heaviness in heart. Irritability. Breaths held in and exhaled loudly. A desire to just go and smash something.

Anyway. Maybe it is PMS- if it is, great. Or maybe it is delayed homesickness. Or maybe it is the old habit of stressing for perfect finish to the project, rearing its ugly head. Maybe it is the thorough unprofessionalism rampant here.

Whatever it is, it has to go by tomorrow morning. Because it is just not worth it. And I don’t want to spend even 2 days sucked into same old shitty anxiety.

Boss….

Oh I am sure you have already seen and ranted on this ad. It is actually so bad ( one who got what product is being advertised will get a gift of Manchurian Masala), that it is surprising for it to have hit so many nerves.

Perhaps its pseudo-realstic- pretentious progressivism-gone-horribly- wrong is the reason for the mass rants against it. And perhaps the fact that we are smarter in spotting sexism these days.

This is why I am going to link it and proceed to rant about it myself:):)

After years of ‘woman is the CEO/boss of the house’ useless-pat-on-the back trope, we get a ridiculously sexist ad that shows a female boss telling her subordinate-at-workplace husband to stay back to do extra work at office, and then proceeding to go home and cook him a delicious meal and seductively asking him to come back to enjoy the said food.

Lest you think this lady is somewhat cuckoo in her head- because didn’t she ask him to stay back herself? Short term memory a. la. Aamir Khan in Ghajini? Or someone with a split personality like Aparichit? ( Hey, these popular Indian movies are totally accurate in depiction of any mental disorder, OK? Don’t be so snooty).

Noo… you realise she is a good Indian wife, who makes it up to her subordinate-at -work husband by cooking for him. After all, aren’t we all Indian women supposed to do that? Get good grades, earn well, look pretty in short hair and go on to cook perfect meals for our husbands?

Note ladies, that she softly says ‘sorry guys, you will have to just do it’ when her team complains about the timelines. Those of you whose boss said sorry to you, before asking you to stay back after-hours, please stop reading the post now.

OK, now for the rest of the 99% of the mortals who have continued reading this post- note that she looks slightly abashed- especially when she sees the disappointment on her team’s face and even asks her teammate ‘how is it going’, with a kind and considerate tone( we don’t know he is her husband yet.) Because if you want people to like a woman, especially a woman in power, you have to show her ‘soft’ side,lest people call her a bitch.

She looks tranquil in the car. Soft. Pondering. Soft. Sensitive. Soft.

And then she launches into WIFE MODE by asking her husband ‘Rohit’ ( the 21st century default Indian male name that replaced the erstwhile ‘Rahul’ of the 1990s) about what would he like to eat tonight. Because the moment a woman gets a free moment after a gruelling day at work, she likes to think about her husband’s dinner. It is totally natural. All of you, who after a long workday DON’T sprawl on sofa watching your favourite TV show over food cooked by someone else, or at least fantasize about it, please stop reading this post now.

OK, I see 99% of my readers are still reading.

Voila, she twists her hair in a pony at home, ponders about the contents of the fridge philosophically and rustles up a decidedly Udupi looking Chinese meal.

Then Rohit – the same team mate forced to stay back for work gets a call from ‘Wife.’ He sardonically replies ‘ Aaj late hoga. Boss ne bahut jam diya hai.’ ( Biiiiitch!!!)

Wife, who turns out to the said boss( Creative minds!! fantastic idea!!! whatta genius conceptualisation), sends him the video of the meal she lovingly prepared for him.

NOW, NOW, NOW WE GET THE PRODUCT which paid for this ad.

Those who DIDN’T think that the ad was for electrical kitchen appliance or a new brand of Indo-Chinese sauce, please stop reading this post.

OK, now for the rest of the 99% mortals still reading this post. The wife whispers seductively on the phone, ‘Boss ko bolo wife ne ghar bulaya hai’.

Then, the airtel tune starts and you realise that this piece of shit was actually an ad for 3 G connection. You sit quietly contemplating thousands of years of human evolution and how you always hated that Airtel tune and how right you were to pick up Vodafone. (Because how can this brain-dead ‘modern couple’ even compete with a cute pug?)

For all of you who DIDN’T think this woman is quite scary with her short-term memory loss and split personality and Udupi meal, a round of applause. Maybe you haven’t been watching instructive movies like Ghajini and Aparichit.

And a moral of the story for the remaining 99% of mere mortals. Here goes. Quite unintentionally , the ad makers have hit on the exact disorder that our society suffers from. That women are expected to have two distinct personalities: Modern professional woman outside and traditional wife/ mother/ daughter at home. They need to have a short term memory. Wipe out the BOSS identity as soon as you leave office and slip into WIFE identity.

You can be a boss with a corner office, have short hair, wear Sonia Gandhiesque sarees, ride in a chauffeur driven car, earn more money than your husband. But you have to slip into the ideal Indian wife mode as soon as you are in private sphere.

Otherwise, the balance of power just might tilt and patriarchy will shake. SCARY THOUGHT!!!

The ad stupidly celebrates the schizophrenia of our patriarchal society and I won’t even link the garden variety dumb excuses of ‘ WOMEN LIKE TO COOK FOR THEIR HUSBANDS SO WHAT IS WRONG IN SHOWING THE REALITY WHAAAAAA WHAAAA’ thrown by the ad makers and supporters of this ad alike.

But the good news is, that the ad has ruffled many feathers. And people are debating the ad, which has opened up a dialogue about the double shift many Indian women are ‘forced to do’ ( unlike ‘choose to do’ according to defenders of this ad). This is good news that ads like these don’t get a free pass for being covertly sexist. A debate on this ad is especially welcome because,

Because it pretends to be realistic unlike hundreds of ads that show sparkling women talking about detergent or their kids schoolbag as if it was some life-or-death issue.

Because it pretends to be progressive by showing a lady boss and goes on to justify the prevalent sexism in the society by perpetuating the worst and most dangerous stereotypes about women.

Because showing short-haired-lady-boss doesn’t make you a progressive.

Because it refuses to show a powerful woman who doesn’t look guilty in front of her subordinates for doing her job.

Because it reflects the pseudo-equal modern Indian marriage that women are calling out for what it is- a pseudo equal relationship built on age old stereotypes.

Because it champions the ultimate status of modern Indian man as ‘ boss in marriage’ and brushes his insecurities about the rising power of women.

And ALSO because it comes across as advertising CHINGS UDUPI SCHEZWAN CHAUPATI SAUCE and not a 3G CONNECTION.

There.